For about a month Niger has been in a political crisis where the president has tried to seek a constitutional amendment enabling him to stand for a third term. This move has been criticised by the opposition and obstructed by the supreme court. In a response to this President Mamadou Tandja has dissolved the parliament, called for new elections and in a recent move taken extraordinary powers to rule the country by decree.
This is a serious blow to the democratic rule, in function for 10 years in Niger. What the outcome of the election will be is uncertain but there is an obvious risk that the president will try to consolidate his power with a strong and perhaps disputed support in the chamber.
Similar to the situation in Niger but with a different outcome president Manuel Zelaya has been deposed in a coup d’etat in Honduras. Also seeking a new term in office by holding a referendum on constitutional changes, Zelaya met fierce opposition from both army, opposition and in his own party. The coup has allegedly taken place on the initiative of the supreme court, as the referendum was seen as illegitimate.
Both Niger and Honduras has resolved a political deadlock by an unconstitutional and from a democratically unacceptable way. Both actions shall be responded by criticism from the international community. But if these would be the only possible solutions from such a deadlock, what WOULD be the most acceptable one?
My personal view is that the situation in Honduras proves more likely to maintain constitution and democracy in the long run than Niger. Both presidents has in violation to the constitution or court ruling seek a new term, if the proposed referendums wouldn’t be in accordance with the constitution, to keep the constitutional order the president must resign.
Therefore it is more acceptable with a short-lived military/provisional government in Honduras awaiting fresh presidential elections than a continued presidency under a presidential coup in violation to all constitutional order which may be the case in Niger.
The coup in Honduras has met criticism from both USA, UN and the world community. Still it was taken place in an orderly way and not by any specific interest than keeping the institutional order. As the order was from the supreme court there is a form of civil and institutional coup. In order with the constitution the speaker of the house has taken office as provisional/interim president. The installation took place in presence of the parliament which determines the restored and continued political order. As the coup obviously has the support of the vast political establishment in Honduras, there are no clear signs of concern about the continued democracy. On the other hand the new administration has pledged that the planned presidential election will take place in November and a constitutional president will take office from January, thereby conclude the normalisation of the political order in Honduras.